The real flaw

A former classmate was talking about fat female bodies and their portrayal in art.  She seemed amazed that the old Dutch masters preferred to paint curvy women.  Instead of concluding that curvy women were the ideal, she thought Rubens was a particularly kind painter to non-endomorphs.

“They weren’t afraid to show their flaws” she kept repeating.  I tried to explain that Rubens and those in his culture did not see ‘fat’ women as ugly, but as ideal.  Dimpled thighs were not flaws but markers of beauty and wealth the same way protruding collar bones and Gucci purses are desired by (some) women in our culture now.

I tried to explain that in Europe and some parts of North America at various times, muscle definition was a flaw as were square shoulders.  Women were taught to keep their shoulders sloped and rounded in the early 1800s.


Even in this 1899 poster, the Amazon woman has no visible muscle definition and narrow shoulders.  (See for the essay that goes with the poster.)


The thighs of our modern Amazon, Wonder Woman, are not dimpled, but defined.  (However I miss the more dominant or assertive pose of her ancestor.  )

But, I could not get my classmate to see that Rubens was not a revolutionary fat-activist but a popular painter.  She could not imagine cellulite as anything but a flaw.  It is the same with church history.   Even when reading the gospels and literally seeing how the Jesus character evolved and began to show different traits, the evolution of thought cannot be accepted.  We find an explanation that doesn’t fit the evidence, but fits our current cultural story.

If cellulite is always a flaw, then a painter would only paint it to be generous.  ?

If Jesus is always a deity, then his (contradictory) representations do not represent change in thought, but a different facet of his divine character.  ?

9 thoughts on “The real flaw

  1. D'Ma says:

    Wow! I agree with you about the contrast between the Amazon woman portraits. While there is muscle definition in Wonder Woman, she appears to projecting sexiness and sultriness rather than the power and strength of the Liberator. 😦

    As for fat and cellulite, with all the air brushed photos of swimsuit and Victoria’s Secret models women come to believe that is the picture of perfection. Little do they realize, at least until recently, that many of those photos are so doctored that they would be impossible to imitate in real life. A real woman does have curves and “flaws”. These are what make her beautiful.

  2. TWF says:

    It is funny sometimes how our cultural norms and expectations can make us blind from the truth. Nice tie-in.

    I’ve heard of the cultural influences in what we find attractive since early on, and, being male, I’ve wondered how much it affects me. Truth be told, it does not seem to affect me much at all, but I am a bit of an odd ball. 🙂 I like a curvy, womanly woman, and I don’t mind a few flaws here and there.

    • prairienymph says:

      TWF, do you think of individual quirks as flaws to accept like we’ve trained to or are they neutral or even beautiful to you? I’m not interrogating you, just curious to know what language you use to describe things like muscle definition, rolls, or cellulite at one time called beauty marks and other times called flaws.
      Cellulite is more common in women because the higher percentage of estrogen makes our skin thinner. I wish the evidence of having softer sensitive skin on hips wasn’t considered ugly.

  3. Lorena says:

    I was indoctrinated from chilhood to believe that men only like perfect looking women. Therefore, as hard as I try, I cant convince myself that a man can find me atractive. Years of therapy havent helped, so dont worry about it.

    • D'Ma says:

      You know what I find so odd, Lorena? I can look at a woman who is curvy and, by worldly accounts, imperfect and think she’s absolutely beautiful. Yet when I look in the mirror I see all my flaws. No matter how much I work out, how much I try to eat right, how many face creams I use or how many times The Tour Guide or my friend tell me I’m beautiful I struggle to see myself that way. It’s not something I dwell on, but it’s there. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

      It is indoctrination and it’s a hard one to overcome, if it can overcome at all.

    • prairienymph says:

      Although I usually see beautiful in almost everyone else, I often just see ugly when I look in the mirror. It is getting better for me, partly because my parents did not reinforce the beauty myth and since I was young I’ve had more than a few guy friends share that they find all sorts of shapes attractive.

  4. David says:

    i’ve never been a fan of the skeleton woman myself; i prefer some substance. it’s not healthy to be either too thin or too fat. i can find beauty in a bigger woman.

    indoctrination can be harmful in all forms, not just in a religious context. and the answer is the same: to open your mind to new possibilities, and consider that your preconceived notions may be incorrect and/or harmful.

    as for jesus…his crowd seems to be scared by the concept of evolution in any form, and sometimes i tend to think the same is true of thought. 😉 and they are exactly the type who work from their conclusion and look for whatever supports it, instead of the sensible approach of amassing the evidence first before arriving at a conclusion. and when we prove something, they’ll say they knew it all along and that it was just a part of god’s overall purpose…sigh…i don’t even think the character of jesus is even a historical one.

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